By Nick Harris
10 January 2010
West Ham’s Icelandic owners look likely to sell the club before the end of January, with at least two rival bidders “at an advanced stage of the due diligence process”, according to a source familiar with the situation. The source added that “negotiations are ongoing with more than one group” but said “things could be wrapped up within seven to 10 days”.
One bidding group comprises the former Birmingham City owners, David Sullivan and David Gold. A second bid is from a London finance company, Intermarket. It has also been suggested in banking circles that a third bid could yet emerge from Tony Fernandes, the Malaysian businessman behind Air Asia, former sponsors of Manchester United. Fernandes himself said last month that no bid is planned.
West Ham’s chairman, Andrew Bernhardt, has consistently claimed that the company which owns the Hammers, CB Holding, does not need to sell, and there is a sustainable business plan if it doesn’t sell.
Other sources say the dire financial situation could force the sales of players this month to balance the books unless the club is sold or fresh capital is otherwise injected.
It would make sense for CB Holding to get out now for business reasons if they think there is any possibility of the club being relegated. It is obvious the firm has no capital to invest, or no will to invest any, and if West Ham go down, an asset worth millions in the Premier League would become a liability in danger of administration, little better than a write-off.
Sullivan and Gold want 50 per cent of West Ham – and a guarantee of effective control – in exchange for around £50m investment, much of which they stipulate should be spent on buying some players and the most urgent football debts. They have increased an earlier offer.
CB Holding is owned by a bank, Straumur, which is owed a chunk of the club’s £40m bank debts. On top of that, West Ham have £30m of other liabilities including £19m which is still owed to Sheffield United over the Carlos Tevez affair.
It is understood that Intermarket have tabled an offer of around £100m for the whole club, but the structure of their deal is not known. “There will be a deal with someone within a month,” a source said.
Gold and Sullivan sold Birmingham last year for £82m, having bought it 16 years ago for £1 and transformed its fortunes; they laid the foundation for Blues’ current progress. If the pair fail with their West Ham bid, they will target Charlton then Crystal Palace, in that order.
This article has also appeared in today’s Independent on Sunday, here.